Tancred was a big man. Standing a full foot taller than any of his brothers (save his oldest, who was almost as big as him), he was so large that even his palfreys looked of destriers. He almost preferred a nice strong warhorse to the little riding ponies, almost. They were expensive, and uncomfortable to ride. But when he wanted to make an impression... An armored knight, astride an equally armored horse, a lance strapped to its side, a shield on his back, a sword at this hip. He was intimidating. Redhand; that's what people called him. Tancred Redhand. It was a great name. It made people afraid of him. And nothing made Tancred happier than knowing people were afraid of him. It made him chuckle; whenever he chuckled, he stroked his beard. “What the hell are you going on about, up there?” Tancred looked back, snapping out of his reverie. “Just laughing is all, little brother. You should try it sometime. Maybe people won't think you're such a-” “I laugh plenty,” said Bohemund, pointing an unsteady finger at him. He tried to point at least, but he couldn't quite manage. The road was too rocky; they weren't on a major highway. “And who's idea was it to get on this damned road, anyway? This sucks. It's going to rain soon, and we haven't seen civilization for three days.” “Why do you have to whine so much?” said Odo the youngest, riding lazily behind the two, “All you do is bitch, bitch, bitch. We should have left you in the last town; you enjoyed the company there enough to stay.” Bohemund flustered, scrabbling with his thoughts in a vain attempt to construct a witty riposte. His wit, like his liver that night before, failed him. “Well,” he said, blushing and trying to hide it beneath his cloak, “She looked better in the dark.” “I think even the god of the fugly trees would have looked good after how much you had to drink,” said his younger brother, “Which was, you know, half of what the rest of us had.” Tancred Redhand burst out into laughter. He was having a fine day. It was a pleasant morn, the fifth of April, and it wasn't too cold here. Excellent riding weather, by anyone's standards (except maybe by Bohemund's; he was really sensitive to the elements). Wind whisted; Odo coughed. He had been stabbed in the lung once by an old woman's blind and deaf son, in the middle of a field on that woman's uncle's stepson's land. It was a long story, and Odo had been falling-down drunk that day. He should have died, but he didn't. Hence, Odo Ironlung. He had been lucky that his beard hadn't taken any serious damage. It helped keep him warm, and that had been in the middle of a January. Tancred's beard helped keep him warm, too. Bohemund was jealous. But not as jealous as Tancred the Crook, who had once been the fourth Earl of Armoinnais, but was now just a priest. And not even a parish priest; no parishes wanted him. The Church gave him a stipend to stay away. He was their cousin, and Odo and Bohemund had grown up with him. That's why he was around. Tancred Redhand just thought he was there to steal stuff. Everyone thought about the Crook. He really didn't do it, anymore, but nobody believed him. They told him so during their confessions to him; it was hard to be Tancred the Crook. It was the four of them, travelling all alone to this foreign, fancy-pants kingdom. Well, 'alone' was really a misapplication of the word. Since, being royalty, they carried with them an unnecessarily large royal entourage, replete with cooks, runners, servants, slaves, falconers, cotters, stablehands, tanners, skinner,s coblers, masons, carpenters, roofers, tilers, weavers, rooster-hands, guards, captains, three bankers, and a goldsmith. And this was just the first caravan. It was hard, being royalty. Tancred Redhand was excited about their journey. Way more excited than Bohemund was. They were going to a wedding. Tancred's wedding. Not the Crook's; he was celibate (not that anyone believed that either). Bohemund tended to hate weddings. Getting drunk was fun, but all the girls there had brothers. And brothers always had a problem when other men starting hitting on their sisters. When he was seventeen, Bohemund had gotten four black eyes and a broken arm over the course of one year by becoming severely intoxicated at weddings. Sometimes, it was hard to be Bohemund. “So do you think she's going to be good-looking?” asked Odo. He had caught up to Tancred Redhand, and was riding beside him. Bohemund and the Crook were slightly further back. “Why do you care?” said Tancred Redhand, “She's not going to be your wife.” “Well, I can still look at her before she's married, right?” said Odo. They all shared a deeply held conviction that even looking in that way at a married women would damn your soul to Hell. Their mother had seen to that, and she believed that her husband was going to Hell every single moment of every single day. Her boys (she had never had any daughters) were all deathly afraid of going to Hell when they died, and they all believed that the quickest way to go there was to look at a married woman. Tancred would even go into one of his murderous rages over the offense. Bohemund and gang (that's how Bohemund thought of everyone, anyway) always made sure to keep their glances downward when around the betrothed. Everything else was open season, though. If you couldn't touch or talk, you could at least look. “If I catch either of you looking at the no-doubt gorgeous woman who is to be my wife, then I will beat you to death with a pointy rock,” said Tancred Redhand, plainly. The Crook smiled, saying, “Well, I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I agree-” “I was talking to you, clothy,” said the elder Tancred, “It's Odo whom I trust the most in the presence of my lovely bride. He respects me enough to know that she is off-limits. I have no need to lecture him.” The Crook grumbled. He said, “I am a man of the cloth.” “You're also Tancred the Crook,” said Bohemund, literally ribbing him. The priest seethed with anger, putting his hand on his bow. Touching it calmed him, although he would really love nothing more than to draw it and kill this blasphemer. But if he did that, then his aunt would get ahold of him. And nobody wanted that. She had had a fifth kid, once, but he died of a mild fever. So, she had his doctor hung, drawn and quartered. Then burned for good measure. After that, everyone else just figured out that her kids were kind of excluded from the whole backstabbing and trecherous-murder game. The Crook glanced sideways at Bohemund. He said, “Hey, Bohemund.” Bohemund looked up at him, “What?” So, Tancred the Crook, ex-Fourth Earl of Armoinnais, poked him in the eyes with his first and second fingers. Bohemund yelled and grabbed at his face, clawing at his bruised sockets. His brothers exploded into laughter, stopping their palfreys to take in the sight. Bohemund, barely able to see, took a swing at his tormentor. The Crook didn't even have to move in order for it to miss. The third son completely whiffed with his wide open right hook. It completely unbalanced him. And one of Bohemund's feet came out of its stirrup. He tumbled from his horse, his entire body pitching over one side. Don't worry, though, his other foot was still in its stirrup, and instead of just collapsing into the ground, Bohemund ate dirt, his head swinging into the earth and bouncing. When the dust settled, Bohemund was hanging off his horse, still attached to it. He had a hell of a headache, and both of his brothers were laughing heartily. They had to support each other to keep from falling, themselves. It was only funny until you lost an eye, then it was hilarious. The third prince spat out a little dirt and a few rocks. He hoped that none of it was his teeth. “Come on, Bohemund,” said Tancred Redhand, “We need to get a move on. I'd hate for our staff to catch up to us. You want to talk about a whiney bunch of crybabies. They make you seem like Geoffrey the Great.” Bohemund just moaned. The Crook got down to help him up. Odo Ironside just laughed.